Gum Disease Among American Adults “Underestimated”


According to a recent study published in the Journal of Dental Research, many more American adults may suffer from gum disease (or periodontitis) than was previously expected. Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) “appear to have underestimated by as much as 50% how many cases of moderate to severe periodontitis actually exist in the U.S. population.”

The study, published on Sept. 21, 2010, was carried out through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). 450 adults over age 35 were given full mouth examinations as opposed to partial mouth examinations which had been used to estimate gum disease prevalence in earlier studies. The data gathered from the adults who had full mouth examinations indicated that the partial mouth exams missed 50% or more of the true number of gum disease cases. Given such a discrepancy, NHANES will no longer use partial mouth exams to estimate gum disease in the U.S. population.

The most significant part of the research, however, has to do with its broader implications for public health. We know that gum disease is linked to a number of other “chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.”As Samuel Lowe, D.D.S. M.S.and the president of the AAP stated, “This study shows that periodontal disease is a bigger problem than we all thought. It is a call to action for anyone who cares about his or her oral health.”

Vanessa Hurley

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